Vice Chair Sullivan’s final meeting starts with budget hearing and has teachers again supporting colleague
1. Tonight was the last of three public budget hearings for the 2023-2024 school district budget. Business Manager Dave Libby again stressed that we have only six months of data due to the new school opening, and his office will project as best they can for FY 2023-2024. Libby also notes that the larger preschool program at the Heath Brook causes some uncertainty.
Personnel will be a focus for next year since all North St, Trahan and second grade staff were moved to the Center Elementary School, and the district may decide that isn’t the best distribution of staff. Operations costs due to the new school will also be key, with changes to busing, supplies, utilities, maintenance, and other line items.
The conversion from Smartboards to Cleartouch Boards through the district will be ongoing next year. The district is still working on reducing paper usage.
There will also be a focus on improvements to the Dewing and Heath Brook to make sure they are usable for the next six to 10 years.
Ultimately, the district is asking for a 3.07% increase overall, with a 2.98% increase to salary and a 3.46% increase to operating and capital outlay. Salaries are 78.7% of the budget, and teacher salaries are 68% of that, with operating costs representing 27.8% of the school budget.
As for capital projects, an assessment of the Dewing’s HVAC will be done, along with a check of the electrical system at the Heath Brook. The district is also looking into fixing the concrete hill in the back playground; Libby hopes the district can get a grant for this project.
The budget documentation can be found on the district’s website here.
2. There were multiple recognitions tonight, starting with the VFW Voice of Democracy winner Brooke Bunyan, a senior who placed second in the state. Unfortunately Bunyan was unable to make tonight’s meeting and will come to a future meeting.
Next up were two All State Wrestling Champs for their divisions, Jack Callahan, a senior (left) and Nicky DeSisto, a freshman (center). Brook Lightfoot was the runner up in the Girls Wrestling Tournament for her division. TMHS head wrestling coach Steven Kasprzak also won the Division 3 Head Wrestling Coach of the Year Award.
Athletic Director Ron Druin, at podium, was able to make the meeting this month to be recognized for winning the District 4 Athletic Director of the Year Award.
3. TMHS Principal Andy Long gave the following statement about the recent chirping incident with the TMHS boys hockey team, as reported by Fox News 25.
Fox reported that one or more Tewksbury hockey players posted on Snapchat the names of players and families of the Lowell Catholic High School hockey team, which Tewksbury faced in the playoffs. The post used several slurs and made comments of a sexual nature about a Lowell Catholic player’s sister.
The Tewksbury team, which was the top seed in the tournament, was allowed to compete by the MIAA and TPS administration and defeated Lowell Catholic (ranked 32) 2-1 before being eliminated by No. 17 seed Norwood, 5-2.
Last night, Long and Druin addressed the incident, reading a statement that had gone out to the TMHS community, signed by the head coach and principal as well as Derek Doherty, the TMHS boys hockey coach.
“I’d like to express regret and disappointment regarding the incident that came to light on March 2 2023, involving the boys varsity hockey team, in particular the creation and sharing of a list that contained offensive and harassing comments about Lowell Catholic hockey players, their families and other members of the Lowell Catholic community. This occurred the same evening that TMHS was scheduled to play Lowell Catholic in the MIAA division to playoffs.
Upon learning of this information and in consultation with the superintendent and its School Department, the school administration and athletic director immediately began to investigate and review the available information. TMHS took immediate action before the game against any team member knowingly involved in creating and sharing the list. In addition, the team was also addressed prior to the start of the game by the athletic director and the head hockey coach to ensure that there was no taunting behavior before during or after the game.
Like all home games, TMHS administration school staff and school resource officers were present in the stands to warn TMHS students and fans attending the game that any taunting, harassing language or shouting of any names would not be tolerated, and doing so would result in being removed from the rank and subject to school-based consequences. The athletic director from Lowell Catholic was present and was informed of all the steps TMHS had put in place that evening.
Over the weekend and into this week to TMHS has continued its formal investigation to determine the scope of involvement by the team. The team is has been asked to think about how they would work to repair the harm caused by the incident to the individuals and to the greater Lowell Catholic community. I have been in contact with the Lowell Catholic head of school and continue to keep her apprised of developments.
In addition to re-educating the team regarding sexual harassment training, cyber bullying, prevention and the role of a bystander, any findings from the investigation will result in disciplinary action for students who have violated the school’s code of conduct in line with their student handbook and Mass General Law.
Our coaches, school and community do not condone this type of behavior. Harassment has no place in our school and certainly not in athletics. Thank you.”
Druin added that there is no tolerance for this in their program and his apologies go out to Lowell Catholic. He added the district is still working to get to the bottom of the incident.
The MIAA has also not yet weighed in despite inquiries from Fox, the Carnation and other local news outlets.
4. Information about early college planning was presented by Director of Student and Family Support, Karen Baker O’Brien. TMHS offers both Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes to students to help them get a jump start on college classes.
The presentation can be watched in its entirety here.
5. The Citizens Forum had two speakers tonight. The first was Danielle Bresnahan, a mother of two TPS children.
Bresnahan is a lunch monitor and involved with the PAC. She was questioning if there were sufficient polices in place to protect students from the behavior of other students in school. She is concerned that parents are not being notified when classrooms have to regularly be evacuated due to the behavior of students. She notes that anxiety is affecting one in eight children and said the district should not assume that children are handling incidents at school well.
TMHS teacher Peter Molloy spoke again about his concerns regarding his reporting of a potential hazing incident. You can read the TTA’s statement here. Molloy is looking to resolve the situation with the School Committee. He was asking for a public apology from the full committee or, alternately, from Vice Chair Keith Sullivan and Member Rich Russo.
“Last month, Superintendent Regan’s opening remarks were, quote, work will always begin and end with what is best and safe to protect all of our students,” said Molloy. “But seeing as she puts students at the center of this, let’s ask her what is best for students in this situation? It’s best to see and hear their elected and appointed school district leaders.”
He believes district leadership staying silent on this issue makes the district’s students less safe.
Chair Bridget Garabedian responded by pointing out that while their meetings are open to the public, they are not meetings with the public; she added that she understands that Molloy is disappointed to not have a response in the moment. She also shared that the board did take actions, including creating an ethics policy that will address social media use by School Committee members. Garabedian and Regan also read statements at the last School Committee meeting.
6. Regan’s Superintendent Report began with two annual awards that are currently accepting submissions.
First, the 2023 Annual Ginsberg Family Award is to recognize an individual, group or company who had a significant impact on the Tewksbury Public Schools.
And the 2023 Annual Krissy Polimeno Outstanding Educator Award is for an educator who has had significant impact on Tewksbury Public Schools.
The deadline to submit nominees for both awards is April 13. Forms can be emailed to email@example.com.
Next, Regan shared a thank you from the Bedford VA for cards that children made for Valentine’s Day. She thanked the PACs for coming in over vacation week to decorate doors for Read Across America Week. On the delayed opening day, a snowman was built in the courtyard of the Center Elementary School.
The International club will be collecting gently used prom dresses to support a nonprofit. TMHS theater director Celeste Pelligrino has been in touch with the director of the Lowell RARA Center and will be setting aside a block of tickets to the next show, Beauty and the Beast, for the group.
7. Lori McDermott shared in her Assistant Superintendent Report that the district is coming to an end with its ELA curriculum pilot. The piloting team recently met to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each program. Cale Birk will be back to continue to discuss the science of reading with Wynn and Ryan teachers. Tomorrow will be the first standards-based report card meeting.
8. Per Dave Libby, the district has spent 97% of its budget for the year, which is where he would expect to be at this time. The only large expense left is payroll.
Libby acknowledged that there have been transportation issues with the bus company due to driver shortages. He expects that to be resolved in the next week or two. Member Kayla Biagioni-Smith raised the issue that parents are having trouble tracking buses with the changes every morning, saying it can take a day for the new bus number to show up in the app. Libby said he would address it with the bus company.
9. Sub-committee reports
- Elementary School Building Committee: Sullivan shared that there is a meeting tomorrow and hopefully they’ll be done with the punch list. The only major outstanding issue is with the gym floor, which they are working to resolve. He will step off the ESBC when he leaves the School Committee after the town election on April 1.
- TSEPAC: Biagioni-Smith said there is a possibility of a virtual work group meeting sometime in March, and there will be a survey for a social outing sometime in the next couple of months. There will also be a parent workshop on March 15.
- Wellness Advisory Council: Russo discussed that there is going to be a vaping curriculum, facilitated by Maria Ruggerio of the Front Line Initiative. Cafeterias will be promoting health eating and nutrition in creative ways to the different age levels in town.
- Policy Subcommittee: No update
10. The committee voted to raise the substitute pay rate. The rate for a TPS ESP aide will rise from $90 to $110 per day, and the rate for substitutes for a TPS teacher will now be $150, up from $105. Long-term substitutes currently are paid $110 per day plus $34.51 for an hour of prep time; that will rise to $160 per day, with the prep time staying at $34.51.
The rate for retired teachers who sub will also be raised. The daily rate to cover a TPS teacher will move from $110 to $160, and long-term sub rates will go from $120 per day plus $34.51 for prep time to $170 per day. The prep time rate will stay the same.
These new rates go into effect immediately.
11. Superintendent Evaluation Timeline
- Distribute Superintendent Evaluation Documents to School Committee – 5/26
- Superintendent to distribute and review progress of goals and self-assessment – 6/2
- Individual School Committee members will consult with Superintendent to review goals and self assessment data – 6/5-6/23
- School Committee members will submit their individual evaluations of the Superintendent to the Chair person for analysis. Chair will create a summary – 6/28
- Chairperson to deliver oral and written summary of evaluation report in open session – 7/19
*all dates are on or about that date
12. In School Committee Matters of Interest, Russo wished all the DECA state finalists luck. As tonight was Sullivan’s last meeting, he wanted to give a heartfelt thank you for “the amazing work” that he’s done over the past six years. He also congratulated Sullivan on his lasting legacy on the committee, especially after guiding it through an unprecedented time.
Biagioni-Smith gave a big thank you to the PAC for all the recent events. She had a particularly good time at a recent candy bar bingo night at the Center Elementary School. She also addressed Sullivan, noting that while they didn’t always agree, she thought they had productive conversations and will miss his expertise on the committee.
Nick Parsons thanked Sullivan for his six years of service and said he learned a lot from him. Parsons also noted that today is International Woman’s Day. He discussed the film series the Tewksbury DEI Advisory Committee put on had for Black History Month and thanked the library and TMHS for hosting the showings.
Parsons also commented on the recent controversy with TMHS sports, noting that Tewksbury does not have a fee to play a sport because we’ve decided to give everyone equal access. He hopes that sports can be a vehicle for something positive and not something that distracts from time, energy and budget.
Garabedian believes that having people of differing opinion on a committee makes the committee stronger and that, while she and Sullivan often see things differently, it has made some of the decision-making on the committee better. She thanked him for his six years of his service and his insight.
Superintendent Regan also had parting words for Sullivan. She did share that it is not her right or job to publicly condemn anyone, like she’s been asked to do. She says that being on a School Committee is a thankless and emotional job, and that’s why there are few people who are stepping up to lead. She recalled how Sullivan had built the small stage with a red carpet that 2020 graduates were able to walk over to receive their diplomas so they could have some semblance of a normal graduation.
An emotional Sullivan had the last remarks of the evening. He thanked a list of people who helped him get where he is, noting every decision being made is what’s best for students. He thanked his family for giving him the opportunity to do this. And he believes Tewksbury is great due to all the people who volunteer in the community, in sports, civic organizations, in the schools and the lunch monitors. He said he is humbled and honored that he was able to do the job for six years.
13. Future Meeting Dates
- School Committee Reorganization and Regular meeting – 4/12
- School Committee Training/Workshop – 5/17
- School Committee Meeting – 5/31
- Elementary School Building Committee – 3/9
- TSEPAC Business Meeting – 3/30
- Wellness Advisory Council – 5/3
As was pointed out last night by Mr. Malloy, inaction is in fact an action. The hardest words in any human language to say is “I’m sorry”. This was proven last night.